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Government, opposition set for Citizenship Amendment Bill showdown

NEW DELHI: Parliament is set to witness a government opposition showdown on the Citizenship Amendment Bill that seeks to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The bill has been attacked by the opposition, minority outfits and others for leaving out Muslims and also on the ground that it is at odds with the Constitution, which does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their faith.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh made it clear at the meeting of the BJP parliamentary party on Tuesday that the contentious legislation was the top priority of the government, equating its significance with the decision to turn Article 370 into a dead letter, and asked party lawmakers to ensure their presence when home minister Amit Shah tables the bill next week. The bill is expected to be cleared by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

Allies JD(U), Akali Dal likely to support CAB

Minorities in the neighbouring theocratic countries have been subjected to continuous persecutions, which forced them seek asylum in India. Giving citizenship to six minorities will be yet another push from the Narendra Modi government to the spirit of ‘sarva dharma sambhav’,” Defence minister Rajnath Singh said in his address.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) has been opposed vehemently by opposition parties like Congress, Trinamool, DMK, Samajwadi Party, RJD and Left, and even regional parties like BJD have expressed reservations. BJP’s numbers in the Lok Sabha are clearly not a problem and while the party will need support in the Rajya Sabha, it has been able to muster support following the 2019 general election result. Its allies like JD(U) and Akali Dal are expected to support the bill.

The opposition, however, is hoping that BJP’s allies will not be as enthusiastic about the legislation and “friendly” parties like AIADMK will also be constrained to carefully consider whether to support the bill. The bill has sparked resentment in the northeast, and there are indications that the government is working out a compromise intended to reassure states in the region over the implications of granting citizenship to a large number of Hindus who have come from Bangladesh over the decades.

Senior BJP member Himanta Sarma on Tuesday said a final round of meetings with Assam, Manipur and Nagaland had been held. Formulations like provision of citizenship not leading to residency status in the smaller northeast states were discussed. An assurance of this nature, it is felt, will enable parties like BJD to support the bill.

At Tuesday’s BJP meeting, Singh also raised the issue of absenteeism and underlined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s displeasure over thin presence in Parliament. Barred from attending the parliamentary party meeting for her recent statement about Nathuram Godse, Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur did not attend although she had apologised in the Lok Sabha.

The government is likely to clear the bill on Wednesday morning. The bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants in the select categories eligible for citizenship.

Source: Economic Times